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The Best Shrubs and Trees Near Pools in Lancaster, Reading, & Hershey, PA

Posted On: March 27,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

best trees and shrubs near poolsImagine lounging by your pool, reading a great book or even watching your kids swim. You’re listening to the sound of your water feature churning and feeling totally relaxed when a scream cuts into the picture-perfect scene.

Your child was just stung by a bee or scratched by the thorny shrub that shouldn’t have been planted so close to your pool patio. And now that you’re looking closer, you’re noticing that your pool is filled with fallen flower petals and your patio is stained with berries.

This isn’t a dream at all—it’s more like a nightmare! And it’s all because of making poor choices in trees and shrubs.

But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. With just a little bit of guidance, you can make the best choices in trees and shrubs that will help you have a pool area you can truly enjoy. To guide you in those decisions, we’ve rounded up some helpful advice on the best plants around a pool area, based on some of your biggest concerns.

Keeping the Bees Away

One of the biggest concerns we get in terms of plants around the pool area is avoiding choices that will attract a lot of bees. Bear in mind that the water itself can attract thirsty bees and that all plants attract bees to some degree as pollination is required to produce blooms. 

However, there are still some ways to reduce the bee population in the immediate pool area. For one, you could set up an alternative water source for them so that they choose to drink from that instead of your pool. A small water feature may be just the trick.

best shrubs and trees around pools

In addition, choosing trees and shrubs that are not in full bloom during prime swim time is also a great way to discourage bee activity around the pool. And you can make up for lack of color around your pool during swim season by choosing tree and shrub varieties that have interesting textures and leaf color, even when not in full bloom. The following choices would add interest throughout the season.

Trees to Consider

  • Redbud Tree: This relatively small tree (shown here) is one of the earliest to flower during the growing season. It has beautiful pink and purplish flowers well before swimming season arrives. There are even some varieties with burgundy leaves all summer long.

eastern redbud.jpg

Eastern Redbud

  • Dogwood Tree: Another early spring bloomer, the Dogwood has large fragrant blooms in a variety of colors.

Shrubs to Consider

  • Azalea: This flowering shrub has brightly colored blooms that will appear in early spring.
  • Fothergilla: This low-growing deciduous shrub will provide some bright color to your pool area in early spring. Some varieties feature leaves with a blue-green hue.



  • Japanese Pieris: This broadleaf evergreen shrub of the heather family is native to eastern China, Taiwan, and Japan and has beautiful white flowers which bloom early.

Avoiding Messy Trees and Shrubs

While a Crape Myrtle might be beautiful to look at, if the wind is blowing its small flower petals into your pool (or all over your pool deck), it’s going to quickly become more of a hassle than an enjoyment.

Pools with landscaping trees and shrubs

When planning for the best trees near pools, it’s important to also be conscious of details such as which way the wind blows (and whether it’s in the path of your pool), before installing trees or shrubs that shed. If you really want a Crape Myrtle or maybe a Beautyberry Bush on your property, that’s no problem, as long as it’s out of the path of the wind.

Along those same lines, trees with fruit can lead to stains on your pool patio if they fall and get crushed there. It’s simply not worth the mess.

The best poolside trees and shrubs are definitely going to be varieties that don’t leave a mess. Some examples include the following.

Trees to Consider

  • Ginkgo Tree: Often referred to as one of the most distinct and beautiful of all deciduous trees, the Ginkgo’s fan-like leaves turn a stunning yellow in the fall. Just be sure to use a male tree so that it doesn’t drop smelly fruit like the female tree does.


Ginkgo Biloba

  • Spartan Juniper: Often considered the “most popular” Juniper, this fast-growing and highly durable evergreen will make an attractive and mess-free addition to your pool area.

Shrubs to Consider

  • Green Lustre Holly: This easy-to-grow evergreen shrub adds some nice texture to your pool area without any messy leaves to worry about.  

soft touch holly.jpg

Soft Touch Holly

  • Boxwood: These dense evergreen shrubs produce beautiful green foliage to liven up your pool area but don’t have significant flowers that could create a mess.


Best Trees and Shrubs for Pool Privacy

If one of your goals for adding plants around the pool area is to also create some privacy screening, then placement will be very critical. After all, it’s not necessarily height as much as it is is the strategic placement of plant material that matters.

In addition, if privacy is a main concern, you should be aware that certain trees will not retain their lower needles or leaves when they mature, such as Pines or Cryptomeria. These choices could be used in a poolscape but should not be relied upon as the primary trees for screening.

Instead, consider varieties such as these.

Trees to Consider

  • False Cypress: Chamaecyparis varieties are easy to keep, with very little maintenance involved. They are available in many shapes and sizes, and can easily fill a space that needs to provide some screening.

hinoki cypress.jpg

False Cypress

  • Arborvitaes: These coniferous trees can be planted in rows, close together, to form an effective fence-like privacy screen.

Shrubs to Consider

  • Viburnum: This species of shrubs have fragrant flowers and can grow tall and wide enough to also offer screening.
  • Cherry Laurel: With its bright green leaves, Cherry Laurel is a cheerful plant that will add a nice burst of color to your pool scene. But its sturdy and thick structure can also create the perfect privacy screen.

cherry laurel.jpg

Cherry Laurel

  • Upright Boxwood Varieties: These dense evergreen shrubs can be placed closely together to create an effective privacy screen.

Steering Clear of Thorns

When planning for plants around the pool area, it’s best to avoid those with thorns. After all, the last thing that you want is to add plant material that could scratch family or friends as they’re lounging in a chair or playing on the pool deck.


Though they’re beautiful to look at, if you have a tight space, you should avoid rose bushes. Some locust trees also have thorny fallen branches so you should keep those away from the pool. In addition, certain holly trees and shrubs can have prickly leaves that should be avoided.

Instead, opt for choices such as the following.

Trees to Consider

  • Cryptomeria: Belonging to the cypress family, this large evergreen has leaves that look prickly but are actually quite soft. It makes a great backdrop to lower growing shrubs and has the added bonus of providing some minimal privacy.  


  • Weeping White Spruce: This evergreen’s weeping branches add a graceful backdrop to your pool scene with no worries over prickly thorns or branches.

Shrubs to Consider

  • Soft-Leaf Holly Shrubs: Unlike other Holly varieties which have thorny leaves, this variety of Japanese Holly has soft-textured leaves. It is low-growing and makes a nice addition to borders or walkways.



  • Hydrangea Bushes: These flowering shrubs create beautiful blooms in shades such as purple, pink, and blue. In addition to being thorn-free, it also blooms early, making it a good choice for bee reduction.  

Making Smart Choices for Your Pool

While you might expect that your pool contractor will know what is best in terms of plants around the pool, the truth is, that’s not typically their area of expertise. A pool contractor is an expert in installing pools but is likely not an expert in landscape design. Choosing the best plants for your pool is a decision made during the planning phase of your pool and is really best left in the hands of a landscape design expert.

landscape design around pools

By working with a Registered Landscape Architect from the very beginning, who is an expert in design as well as plant material, you’ll avoid having to redo your pool area with better plants down the road. Instead, from day one, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the space, knowing that you’ve chosen the best trees and shrubs that are fulfilling their purpose. You’ll have fewer bees, privacy where you need it, and won’t have to spend your weekends scooping debris out of your pool

Instead, of worrying that the plant material will make your poolscape a nightmare, you’ll be able to enjoy it for the dream that it truly is.

If you’re looking to update a pool area or add one that is brand-new, we’d love to talk about how you can create the perfect space for your Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home. Contact us for a free consultation and feel confident that we’ll make sure no detail goes overlooked.

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Image Sources:  Eastern Redbud, Fothergilla, Ginkgo, Soft Touch Holly, Hinoki Cypress, Cherry Laurel, Hydrangea, Cryptomeria

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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